Schools are Not Affected by “25 at Gatherings” Rule, but Must Follow Certain Guidelines
The WCHD (Will County Health Department) welcomed Governor J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday, August 25, as he spoke about the newly announced Coronavirus mitigation efforts in Region 7 (Will and Kankakee Counties). Also speaking were IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) Executive Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, State Senator Pat McGuire, and Will County Executive Denise Winfrey.
Beginning Wednesday, August 26, bars and restaurants in Region 7 are not allowed to offer indoor service and must close at 11 PM. Other requirements include reservations being required for each party, no congregating being allowed while waiting for a table or exiting, all tables being six feet apart, and no seating of multiple parties at one table. This was due to three consecutive days of the region’s COVID-19 testing positivity rate being above 8.0%. IDPH will monitor the positivity testing rates, and if the positivity rate comes down to an average of 6.5% or lower over a two-week period, mitigation efforts will go back to Phase 4 of the Illinois Restore Plan.
Additional mitigation efforts started on August 26 included meetings, social events, or gatherings being limited to 25 guests or 25 percent of overall room capacity, whichever is smaller. WCHD epidemiologist Alpesh Patel says some of the schools attempting to begin the new year with partial in-person learning expressed concern that the “25 or 25 % at gatherings” rule applies to them. But at this point, that is not true.
“These new mitigation measures do not currently apply to schools,” Patel explained. “For the few schools starting the school year with in-person classes, they must be aware of having small class sizes, proper social distancing, wearing of masks, and aggressive environmental cleaning measures. A major concern is always the behavior in the age group of 14 to 18 in the high schools. We are closely monitoring weekly COVID-19 positivity trends in youth population to advise schools.”
ABOVE (L to R): WCHD Executive Director Sue Olenek, Governor J.B. Pritzker, Will County Executive Denise Winfrey, and State Senator Pat McGuire. BELOW (L to R): Governor Pritzker and IDPH Executive Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike deliver their portions of the August 25 press conference at the new Will County Health Department building.
It was also during his stop at WCHD that Governor Pritzker announced a new statewide mandate for mask wearing in bars and restaurants. Rather than simply removing masks upon sitting down at a table, patrons will now be asked to wear their masks at all times when communicating with servers or staff at the establishment, and when conversing at their tables. The masks are only to be removed to eat or drink.
WCHD Executive Director Sue Olenek says Governor Pritzker’s visit and press conference reinforced the statewide team effort that is needed. “I appreciated the very clear and honest message the governor and Dr. Ezike relayed. At this point, it is all about personal responsibility and doing the right thing. It’s about US, not ME. I am hopeful and confident we can turn the trend around, but we need everyone to comply.”
For more information on the new mitigation efforts for Region 7, go to https://dceocovid19resources.com/assets/Restore-Illinois/Resurgence-Migitations-Region-7.pdf.
For information on WCCHC (Will County Community Health Center) Mobile Medical Unit testing sites, please go to http://willcountyhealth.org/mobile-medical-van-coronavirus-testing-dates-congregate-settings-and-public/.